President Trump Asserts Commitment To NATO Defense Policy In Poland

Jul 6, 2017
Originally published on July 6, 2017 9:12 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

World leaders and protesters are in Hamburg, Germany, the site of this week's G-20 gathering. President Trump met today with the leaders of South Korea and Japan. On their minds is North Korea, who test-fired a long-range ballistic missile just days ago, suggesting it may soon be able to reach the U.S. Earlier, Trump was in Poland. There, he answered questions about North Korea and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to NATO. NPR's Scott Horsley is traveling with the president and begins our coverage.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Trump told reporters, quote, "something will have to be done" about North Korea's nuclear missile rattling, but he did not offer any details. The U.S. has long been reluctant to use military force against Pyongyang for fear of a retaliatory strike. And Trump has so far not been able to persuade China to put the squeeze on North Korea's economy.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: As far as North Korea's concerned, I don't know. We'll see what happens. I don't like to talk about what I have planned. But I have some pretty severe things that we're thinking about.

HORSLEY: In addition to his talks with Asian leaders, Trump also has a much-anticipated meeting tomorrow with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He continues to raise doubts about whether Russia meddled in last year's presidential race. While U.S. intelligence agencies concluded Russia did interfere to boost Trump's chances, the president notes those agencies have been wrong in the past, as with their finding that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

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TRUMP: Mistakes have been made. I agree. I think it was Russia. But I think it was probably other people and/or countries. And I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows.

HORSLEY: Trump later took a harder line against Russia in an outdoor speech to the people of Poland.

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HORSLEY: Standing in Warsaw's Krasinski Square where Poles rose up against the Nazis during World War II, Trump paid tribute to Polish resilience. He also delivered a warning to Russia, whose aggressive moves on Poland's eastern flank are eyed with considerable suspicion.

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TRUMP: We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran.

HORSLEY: Worries about Russia prompted Poland to spend more than 2 percent of its total economy on defense, an example Trump says other European countries would do well to emulate. Trump called on other NATO allies to boost their defense spending as he's done in the past. And he said something he did not say during his last visit to Europe. The U.S. will come to the aid of any NATO member that's attacked.

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TRUMP: The United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the Mutual Defense Commitment.

HORSLEY: The U.S. is already selling Patriot missiles to Poland. And last month, it delivered its first shipment of liquid natural gas, a boon for American gas producers and a hedge for Europeans worried about being cut off from Russian supplies. Trump's speech today was not just about military and economic might, though. He also sought to defend Western civilization, which he and his speechwriters defined in ethnonationalist terms. The president suggested Western music, art, law and religious faith are under attack and must be jealously guarded.

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TRUMP: We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the south or the east, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.

HORSLEY: The invited Polish audience responded like a crowd at a Trump rally back home, chanting the president's name as Trump declared quote, "we will never back down."

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Donald Trump.

HORSLEY: Scott Horsley, NPR News, Hamburg, Germany. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.